6 Nervous Tics You Need to Stop Right Now

By Sarah Winfrey on 6 October 2014 1 comment

Sure, you're nervous. It's an interview, or a first date, or maybe just a party where you're meeting new people. It's normal to feel some stress and anxiety. (See also: How to Step Out of Your Comfort Zone and Try Something New)

What's not normal, though, is to act in ways that annoy the people around you or make you stand out in a negative light. While these behaviors are often called nervous tics, true nervous tics usually have their origins in some sort of neurological problem. The behaviors discussed below are mostly habits that, somehow, help assuage your anxiety.

Either way, they need to stop.

1. Abdominal Crunching

This is a lesser known tic and one that you might not even realize you're doing. People watching you might not know either, though it can make you look fidgety or like you're bobbing up and down just slightly.

Basically, abdominal crunching or tensing is just what it sounds like: squeezing your abdominal muscles tightly. While this tic is closely tied to neurological disorders, it can also be a way of bracing yourself against what feels like an onslaught from the world around you.

When you feel like life is throwing a lot of things at you, one after the other, you might want to brace yourself against all of that. Tensing your abdominal muscles can help you feel like you can withstand the attack.

2. Toe Crunching or Curling

This is another tic that's closely tied to neurological disorders like Tourette's Syndrome. However, it can also be a way of trying to hide your nervousness from others.

When you clench and unclench your toes, or simply keep them curled in your shoes, it can be because you have nervous energy that you don't know what to do with. You may be conscious enough of it to avoid more obvious expressions of it, but you can't simply contain your anxiety or channel it into something constructive.

3. Eye Blinking

I have a good friend who struggled with this tic. Every time she got nervous, she'd blink her eyes like crazy. It made her a terrible liar. I remember a time when her roommate confronted her about something innocuous, like forgetting to vacuum or leaving a light on all night. She swore she didn't do it, blinking furiously the whole time.

This is a tic that the people around you probably can't help but notice. It may not make them uncomfortable, but it might make it harder for them to be around you. And people who value eye contact may find it infuriating, because it's hard to hold eye contact with someone who blinks all the time.

4. Throat Clearing

Most people who clear their throats all the time don't realize they're doing it. This can start with a simple cold or lingering allergies. Sometimes, you legitimately need to clear your throat a lot. Other times, though, it can become an annoying habit.

Sometimes, people clear their throats a lot because they want to be heard. They may be worried about saying the wrong thing, or about making their point clearly. In an unconscious attempt to be heard, they clear their throat over and over again.

Unfortunately, clearing your throat might annoy the people you're speaking with so much that they don't hear you, because they're too busy trying to corral their own frustration.

5. Grooming

This includes several behaviors, including biting your nails, picking at your skin, and pulling or picking at your hair. All of these are normal things to do, under certain circumstances. For instance, it's normal to bite at a nail that's broken or at a hangnail, especially when you don't have clippers available.

However, these begin to become strange habits when they start to be triggered by something else. Many people engage in these activities when they're nervous, though some do it when they drive or when they're stressed. Eventually, the behavior becomes a habit that doesn't have to be triggered at all.

Most people with grooming tics find engaging in their tic satisfying. However, breaking the tic isn't usually that hard. Wear acrylic nails or cover your hair with a hat, for instance and, over time, you won't feel the compulsion anymore.

6. Facial Gesturing

This set of tics includes anything that you do with your face. It can involve staring or avoiding eye contact, licking your lips repeatedly, or grimacing without realizing it. Again, these are often behaviors that start normally, but somehow become tied to a trigger and then become a habit.

Facial gestures can make it difficult for people to feel like they really know you. You learn a lot about a person by looking in their eyes, and when you can't do that or you're constantly distracted by something else they're doing with their face, it can be hard to make and hold appropriate eye contact and get to know them.

Why Avoid These Tics

The main reason to avoid tics is that they leave people with a negative first impression of you. Even when you're in a situation where nerves are normal or even expected, expressing them through a tic indicates that you aren't in control of your anxiety. If you're interviewing for a job or meeting someone new, this can indicate that you aren't an ideal employee or that you might make a difficult friend.

A first impression is so important! If you're afraid you have one of these tics or you know you do, try to get some people close to you to help you out by telling you when they see you doing the behavior. If it's something you can block physically, like wearing acrylic nails to curb nail biting, go ahead and do that.

Even if your tics are invisible, though, they're often indicators of stress and anxiety levels so high your health might be in danger. Instead of putting these feelings into nervous tics, seek out ways to lower your stress levels. If you can get to a point where you feel better about your life, you might find your tics disappearing on their own.

Do you have any nervous tics? How have they affected your life?

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Add fingernail clicking! That is the most disturbing to me...